Hunting season might seem a long way off when flowers are blooming and trees are just starting to leaf out, but there are things a hunter can do now that might provide more opportunities when hunting …
Hunting season might seem a long way off when flowers are blooming and trees are just starting to leaf out, but there are things a hunter can do now that might provide more opportunities when hunting season does arrive.
It’s time for paperwork. The deadline for special hunt permit applications is May 18.
A special hunt permit allows the holder to hunt beyond the limits of the regular seasons. For example, there are permits for antlerless deer in an otherwise bucks-only area, or to harvest a second deer when the rules are usually one per hunter. Applications for the “once in a lifetime” hunts for bighorn sheep, mountain goat and moose are also due.
There are a limited number of permits issued through a random drawing. They are really limited in some areas. Most drawings have been in June with results out in July. The odds might not be that great, but “if you don’t enter, you can’t win.”
Now is a good time to go on a tour of the regulations and look through the pages of hunt permit opportunities. I got my regulations online at eregulations.com/washington/hunting.
Now comes the list of decisions a hunter makes every year:
1. Which species and which hunting method? To keep this simple, let’s say deer and modern firearms. Purchase the license and tag; you are going to use it anyway. You can do that online too, at fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov.
2. Which special permit opportunity? Looking under the deer and modern firearm tables, how about a quality deer hunt for maybe a bigger deer, an antlerless deer for a better chance for meat in the freezer, or a second deer for more meat in the freezer?
Where? Close to home, or a chance to wander around in the sagebrush? How many permits and how many people applied last year? This always makes me think of tip sheets from the racetrack and calculating odds. You can apply for four opportunities. Make your picks.
3. Purchase the special permit application. For residents it is $7.10 in most cases. Fill in all the information.
4. Submit. Use your favorite good luck charm. Keep your confirmation number.
5. Try not to think about it for a few months.
This is also a good time to do a little online scouting. The Washington Fish and Wildlife website is a great place to start. The site has a hunt planner web map that allows you to search for hunting opportunities across the state, at geodataservices.wdfw.wa.gov/huntregs. You can search for hunting opportunities by species or look at a specific game management unit.
The map also shows land ownership and areas available for hunting under the private lands access program. This access program gives hunters the chance to hunt on specific tracts of private property. Much of the land is in the more eastern part of the state, but what a way to see some beautiful country.
It is springtime, but you’ve got some research and paperwork to do to make for a better fall hunting season. Be careful and stay sharp.
(Retired U.S. Forest Service wildlife biologist Beth Kennedy was a hunter-education instructor for both firearm and bowhunter safety for more than 20 years.)